The Eden Project, Saturday 7 July
If ever a venue was made for Björk, it’s the Eden Project, Cornwall’s eco-hippy, geodesic-dome horticultural haven, which could have been custom-built for the Utopia Tour. “Let’s imagine a world where nature and technology collaborate,” an onstage message urges, only slightly undermined by the technological glitches making the screen go black. The big screen is flanked by two big golden seed pods, banks of bird-of-paradise flowers and a grassy thicket in the centre: a revolving stage that swivels to reveal the woman of the hour ensconced on a vagina-shaped throne in a dress like a cybergoth butterfly.
The sublime swell of ‘Arisen My Senses’ washes through the evening sun as orchids and lilies bloom onscreen in time to the beats, petals bursting open with a force that seems to shake the stage. The thicket turns again and seed pods open to to reveal Libra, Björk’s septet of Icelandic flautists and a harpist, clad in pastoral pink silk and orchid/butterfly hybrid masks, like sci-fi shepherdesses. It’s one of her most sumptuous stage setups yet, and an intricately choreographed show, the musicians acting out the album’s concept of a matriarchal, ecological ideal state, cavorting like nymphs, swaying with stately grace, headbanging to free-jazz flute interludes.
But even ‘Utopia’’s quieter moments, those that seemed hard to imagine as live numbers, command the stage, the holy hush of ‘The Gate’ casting a spell over the litup domes and wondering faces. The darker drama of ‘Claimstaker’ makes its live debut among red, angry lights, before Isobel gets a coolly jazzy flute treatment. Andrew Thomas Huang’s botanical, fantastical images rotate hypnotically behind, and – echoing the birdcalls and airy sounds of Utopia – romancing grebes appear on the backdrop for Courtship, a comically beaked shoebill for ‘Human Behaviour. Along with a soaring ‘Wanderlust’, that’s about it as far as The Hits go – tonight is a show for those as fully invested in Björk’s most recent work as she is.
They’re out in force as well – the line “It is time for us women to rise / And not just take it lying down” in the vulnerably beautiful ‘Tabula Rasa’ gets a spontaneous cheer; the ‘Pleasure Is All Mine’, low and dark and primordial, the domes around lit up in pink, bolsters the female-future message. Perhaps the most beautiful visual moment arrives when the musicians spin their whirly tubes overhead for the ghostly gorgeousness of ‘Features Creatures’, ‘Utopia’’s delicate exploration of the psychic strangeness of being on the rebound. “We are all just struggling / Doing our best / We’ve gone through the grinder,” Björk sings on the powerful ‘Losss’, punching a clenched first out from her chest as flowers explode onscreen again, and a tower of roses sprouts from the side of the set. ‘Sue Me’ seems a weaker follow-up, one of ‘Utopia’’s lesser tracks and not the strongest ending to the set, but the evening is capped beautifully by an encore – with Björk now dressed in pink blossom-ruffled trouser suit – of ‘Debut’’s ‘The Anchor Song’, echoing ‘Claimstaker’’s call of “this is my home” across 25 years, and an intense, laser-lit ‘Notget’. Tonight, Björk found a spiritual home for her Utopia among the domes of Eden – though as the album and its entrancing live incarnation remind us, paradise is within reach for all, in our own imaginations.